Friday, September 27, 2013

9/29/98: 15 Years Later (The Love Movement)

A Tribe Called Quest is my favorite group of all time. Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders affected me deeply in college and Midnight Marauders is in my personal top 10 – not just hip-hop, but all time.When I saw their documentary last year, I was both happy and sad. Happy to relive my favorite things but sad to see how things fall apart after Midnight Marauders.

That's why it's hard for me to write about The Love Movement because it represents the end*. The end of Tribe. The end of an era. One of the saddest farewells in hip-hop and 15 years later, it still is sad thinking about it being the last album we have with Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Love Movement isn’t a bad record. It’s not on par with their first three but it’s better than Beats, Rhymes and Life. It’s a farewell where all the old friends gather to pay respects but it’s not a celebration.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

9/29/98: 15 Years Later (Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star)

This is the second in a series looking back at September 29, 1998. A classic release day in hip-hop where several gamechangers came out. This is Part 2 looking at Black Star’s classic debut “Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star.”

It was fitting that A Tribe Called Quest released their last album on 9/29/98 because their torch was passed in two ways. It was passed to OutKast on Aquemini (which I’ll discuss later) but also Black Star, who took a similar road that Tribe carved out.

I first heard Black Star’s album in fall 2004. One of my advisors in our multicultural center passed me a copy that I burned along with The Roots “Things Fall Apart”. Soon as I listened to it, I was hooked by the beats, rhymes and life of hearing two of my favorites start their careers.*

The album felt like a throwback while looking ahead. The “B-Boys will be B-Boys” skit reminded you of when hip-hop was a park jam and dancing was just as important as MCing.

Maybe that’s why Black Star is significant 15 years later. While Jay-Z revived Biggie’s formula and DMX brought the street element, that album was one of the first to try and recreate that early 90’s feel of alternative rap groups like Tribe, De La Soul and others.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

9/29/98: 15 Years Later (Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life)

15 years ago this Sunday, several albums were released that became gamechangers or showed pivotal moments in the artist’s career. September 29, 1998 would forever be known as a great day for hip-hop and I wanted to reflect on four of those albums that dropped. First up, Jay-Z’s “Vol 2...Hard Knock Life.”

Jay-Z’s growth to the most popular rapper in America is amazing to me because I remember that moment when it first happened 15 years ago when I was starting high school.

It’s when I heard the twin combo of “Hard Knock Life” and “Can I Get A…” dominate the radio that fall of 1998.  Throw in “Money Ain’t a Thang” and all a sudden, Shawn Carter is no longer just another New York rapper but a multi-platinum artist thanks to his third album.

With hip-hop still in a weird place post Biggie/Tupac, enter Jay. His first two albums were great and he had radio singles that were dope (Reasonable Doubt’s “Ain’t No…” and “Can’t Knock the Hustle”) and obvious panders (Vol. 1’s “City Is Mine and “Sunshine”*). He had yet to cross over and this is where his hustler mentality took over combined with his great skill.

In 1998-99, Jay’s success benefited from several things. 1) Linking up with DMX and Ruff Ryders**, 2) The Hard Knock Life Tour which was huge for restoring rap in the public eye, 3) His ability to take what Biggie/Puff did – use obvious samples with gritty rhymes - and go to a higher level, 4) Rap was on the verge of becoming more popular than ever.